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November 23, 2010
2:56 PM

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Oxfam Calls on Dirty Industries to Clean up Their Act and Stop Sabotaging the EU’s Fight Against Climate Change

WASHINGTON - November 23 - Dirty industries are blocking the European Union from making more ambitious cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions while, at the same time, making millions in profits from existing environment policy, says a new report by international agency Oxfam.

With less than a week to go before the start of crucial UN climate change talks in Cancun, the new report, Crying Wolf: Industry Lobbying and Climate Change in Europe, says groups representing carbon-intensive sectors such as cement, steel and chemical production are lobbying against the EU sharpening its emissions cuts from 20 per cent to 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Report author Jodie Thorpe says: “These industries are scare-mongering and greedy. Their lobbying will contribute to the worsening impact that climate change is having on millions of the poorest people in the world - who are least responsible for causing the problem.

“At the same time, the industries appear blind to the huge economic benefits of moving towards a low-carbon economy.”

Many carbon-intensive European companies - including the world’s largest private steel company, ArcelorMittal - are massively benefiting from existing climate policy, notably the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The 10 largest beneficiaries from the ETS can expect to accumulate a stockpile worth €3bn at the end of the current phase of the ETS in 2012 (for full breakdown see Notes to Editors).

“This windfall is even more than the €2.4bn promised by the EU at Copenhagen to help the poorest communities cope with the impacts of climate change this year,” said Thorpe.

“It is inconceivable that Europe can effectively subsidize dirty industry with more money than it’s prepared to pledge to those suffering most from climate change.”

The agency refutes the claim, made by groups such as Brussels-based BusinessEurope, which has 40 member federations in 34 countries including the UK’s Confederation of British Industry that Europe cannot afford to unilaterally adopt a 30 per cent target.

In fact, Europe risks falling behind the likes of China and the US – both now poised to profit from huge investment into low-carbon technologies. Europe’s environmental sector already employs 3.4m people and accounts for 2.2 per cent of GDP. Meeting the new 30 per cent target would incur limited additional costs, while potentially creating more jobs and reducing unemployment.

Oxfam says the private sector has a vital role to play in tackling climate change and welcomes the fact that not all European companies support the position of carbon-intensive companies. Many major firms, as well as investors, believe that the EU must take strong measures. Companies including Unilever, Centrica, Johnson Matthey, Lloyds, Nestle, Philips, Tesco and Vodafone, have all supported the call for a 30% EU target.

“Big business can provide both the vision and the means to help swing changes to public practices and to pave the way for progressive policy, as we have seen with the European Corporate Leaders’ Group,” Thorpe said.

“Many more companies are recognizing that stronger political action on climate change will spark new business opportunities. They are telling their investors as much in their financial disclosures. However, too few are actually speaking out publicly,” Thorpe said.

“Dirty industry groups are filling this vacuum but they are not representing the best interests of all.”


Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.


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